Big Things, Little Packages

Big things come in little packages.

Now that’s something we hear all the time. And yeah, you know, sometimes it’s true. But often what I’ve found is big things come in bigger packaging. That’s really the norm. If you want to cram in more stuff, you’ve got to get a bigger box. I’m learning that as I prepare to travel with a nine-month-old. There was once time when I could travel the world with just my backpack…and those days are now long past.

And oftentimes, too, little things come in big packages. I mean, if you’ve ever ordered anything off Amazon, like a small book or something like that, you may find this giant cardboard box sitting on your front porch. And you open the box and find that half the packaging is packing peanuts (or, rather, those plastic pillows because packing peanuts will apparently outlive us all in the landfill).

It’s literally fluff, filler, nothing at all. It sometimes feels that you’ve just paid to ship air across the country.

So, big things come in little packages? Not very often, it seems.

Perhaps that’s what’s so surprising about this statement. And that’s the goal. We value the efficiency, the economy of space. If you’ve flown recently, you certainly know that trying to get your things in the overhead compartment. Bigger does not always mean better.

It’s hard to get everything we want into one tiny, elegant package. It can be a rare and beautiful thing. And when it’s done right, it makes to sit up a little and pay a bit more attention. Think of that expert packer Mary Poppins. She just kept pulling things out of her bag, more and more to the point of absurdity. But you can’t look away to see what gets pulled out next…

And that’s really what Jesus is getting at today with his mustard seed metaphor. Mustard seeds are really small…think like a poppy seed.

But when you plant it, grows and grows into these giant bushes. What is stuffed into that seed?

The kingdom of God is like a really well packed bag. You can cram a lot into it, and you get a lot out of it. There is so much potential…and there’s always a surprise in store.

I often hear people say, “We’re just this little church in Mt. Holly.”

And it’s true, we are indeed a small church, but a growing one nonetheless. But when you compare us to some other churches, we don’t necessarily have the same resources.

It’s easy to take this mentality and to really limit ourselves. We don’t have the means, we can’t afford it, this is not something we can really pull off.

Yet, something really struck me a couple weeks ago when we gathered at the Synod Assembly. As I was picking up the T-shirts for our kids going to the Youth Gathering this summer in Detroit. (the same one’s we’re making available to you all), I learned that our church is sending the most participants per capita, the most per member, of any church in the state.

For a church our size to send 15 people is really something we should be proud of. That’s 11 people (and 3 adults) whose journey of faith, whose walk with Christ, whose view of the church and the world, will be changed and grown and hopefully flourish.

Thriving like the mustard seed. And the list goes on: this summer we will gather 19 children at day camp, we’ve contributed thousands of dollars to local charities this year, we’ve given tons and tons of food.

Big things really do come in little packages.

This past week, our social ministry committee met to begin reorganizing. And they’ve got some really exciting things on the table. If you haven’t been felt involved in the church’s outreach, you will soon. We are envisioning a team—all of us, really—spreading God’s kingdom, God’s grace and love and mercy out these doors, through the gate, down Main Street, into town, and through this state and country and world.

Because here is the thing about the mustard seed: it spreads. It takes over. It just gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

The kingdom of God is like that mustard seed, or (perhaps more appropriate to us) like a kudzu seed. Once you take it out of the bag, and put it in the ground, you are not going to be able to contain it.

It takes work, it takes cultivation, it takes water (perhaps the water from right there). It takes some initiative and sacrifice from us. It takes prayers and time and, yes, money.

But when I think about what is before us, what possibilities there are, the fruits of the harvest that we and our neighbors will enjoy—well, it’s hard not to be excited. God makes all of this possible. God has given us so much, so many things just under our noses, waiting to be unpacked and cultivated.

Through Jesus’ love and sacrifice we see the true nature of God’s kingdom, the true promise of the seed. All of us are lifted to eternal life with God and we live today for the sake of God’s world. In Jesus’ words today, we become the greatest of all shrubs, and with God’s help, we put forth large branches, so that the birds of the air and the hungry and the needy and the orphans and the widows and the lost and brokenhearted can all make nests in its shade.

So this summer, as the trees and the bushes and the gardens flourish all around us—in spite of the fact that our attendance numbers and giving may dip a little bit—I challenge all of us to think about the mustard seed, to see ourselves as that little seed, that little church, packed with promise, filled with grace, ready to burst forth with new energy and life and love.

If we do this, if we think like this, and act like this, we will soon find that big things do indeed come in little packages.